Mark Whicker: Ducks’ Jakob Silfverberg has found gold in playoffs before
Jakob Silfverberg’s hometown is Gavle, Sweden, which has a river running through it. People with permits can catch salmon, right downtown.
You don’t see that everywhere.
You also don’t see the Gavle Goat, or Gavlebocken, everywhere.
It is a large straw goat that the townspeople build for the Christmas season and it observed its 50th anniversary last year. But not for long. Someone burned the Gavlebocken to the ground. This has happened 35 times.
“It’s super nice, very pretty,” said Silfverberg, the Ducks’ right wing. “It’s kind of sad, really. You get in big trouble if they catch you, but they have only caught one person who’s done it. He wasn’t from Sweden (from the U.S., actually) and he thought it was just a tradition. He got a $10,000 fine.
“They put 24/7 security up, but someone burns it almost every year.”
It’s more fun to celebrate things that aren’t inevitable. Brynas is the club team in Gavle. In 2012 it won the Swedish Elite League championship for the first time in 13 years.
In 17 postseason games, Silfverberg went plus-17 with 20 points. His 13 goals exceeded Daniel Alfredsson’s record. Silfverberg was named MVP of the league, and they built a big stage in Gavle for the party. No arsonist dared show his face.
“We had about three or four days of celebration time,” Silfverberg said. “And then I came here.”
The Ottawa Senators had drafted him three years earlier. They were up, 3-2 over the Rangers, in the first round of the playoffs and summoned him to Canada, and Silfverberg, his head swimming a bit, went right into the lineup. He played a little over nine minutes of each game.
“And then we lost both games and were out,” he said, smiling. “It was a quick trip. But I knew that’s where I wanted to play. That was a big motivation for us in our league finals, because we had several guys that were headed for the NHL. Calle Jamkrok and Mattias Ekholm from Nashville, Elias Lindholm from Carolina, Johan Larsson from Buffalo. We all knew that would be our last time.”
Now, of course, Silfverberg is 26 and a major brick in the wall for the Ducks, who swept Calgary in the first round of the playoffs and will open the second round against Edmonton sometime this week.
The Ducks traded popular, productive Bobby Ryan to Ottawa on July 5, 2013 for Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a first-round pick that became Nick Ritchie. That was the same day the Lakers signed Dwight Howard, so the Ducks got fewer headlines and, as it turned out, fewer headaches.
They still had to be patient. Silfverberg suffered a broken hand when slashed by ex-teammate Jared Cowen in Ottawa, and then he was the victim of Raffi Torres’ Cheapest Hits collection, with Torres getting suspended 51 game for that head shot.
But in his past three years Silfverberg has scored 13, 20 and 23 goals and is a composite plus-33. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, he also defends the best wingers as he skates with Ryan Kesler and Andrew Cogliano. Against the Flames he had three points in four games.
“The season started in early October,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “We couldn’t afford for him to wait until November for his goal-scoring to kick in. Start on time. We asked him to take the next step. I think he has delivered They’re a checking line but they’re too good not to expect offense from them.”
Silfverberg’s dad Jan-Erik was a defenseman for Brynas and won four Swedish League titles and a silver medal in the world championships. But hockey economics have changed since then, and Jan-Erik was never tempted to try the NHL.
“Back then they all had to have jobs as well,” Silfverberg said. “Their team would come home at 2 a.m. and he had a construction job he had to go to at 6 a.m. After a while it was too much, so he retired when he was 29.”
See, that’s why you have a Players Association.
Brynas is in the Swedish Finals right now, tied 2-2 with HV 71. The Swedish playoffs are also best-of-7, with one fewer series, and a 2-2-1-1-1 travel format.
“It’s the biggest thing going on in Sweden right now, in sports,” Silfverberg said. “It gets covered by everyone nationally. Our city is like a Canadian city in that way. They released some tickets and they were gone within the day.”
One imagines what Gavle might do if Silfverberg shows up in the summer with a Stanley Cup to display. They might even come up with a fireproof goat.